Parents will soon be able to voluntarily report COVID-19 cases to Ottawa's public school board

An advisory council is discussing stopping the playing of the national anthem at OCDSB schools (Colton Praill/CTV News Ottawa)

Parents of students in Ottawa's public school board will be able to voluntarily report positive COVID-19 cases in schools.

The Ottawa Carleton District School Board will launch a voluntary COVID-19 disclosure process for parents, students and staff later this month.

"In response to requests for continued reporting of information on suspected COVID-19 cases at school, the OCDSB is creating a voluntary COVID-19 reporting process," said the OCDSB in a letter to parents on Friday.

"Parents, students and staff will be able to share information about cases through a new Voluntary COVID-19 reporting form."

The Ontario government suspended reporting of COVID-19 cases in classes and schools over the holidays.  The provincial guidelines stated principals would only notify the health unit of a potential outbreak when 30 per cent of students and staff are absent.

Starting Monday, all school boards in Ontario will begin reporting school absences, which will track how many students and staff are physically present in a school on a given day.

The OCDSB says a new COVID-19 Disclosure Dashboard will share information on COVID-19 cases in schools voluntarily reported by parents, guardians and students.

"Our goal is to be as transparent as possible with the community. This data is self-reported by parents/guardians and/or staff through voluntary reporting and/or normal absence reporting processes and we cannot guarantee the accuracy of it," the OCDSB said.

"It is meant to be a snapshot of the current COVID-19 situation and absences due to illness in schools and workplaces for the previous school day."

The Ottawa Catholic School Board announced this week that it would notify families of positive cases in schools, should they learn of them.

In a letter to parents and guardians, the board said that if the school becomes aware of a positive COVID-19 test result via a rapid antigen or PCR test, families would be notified.

RAPID ANTIGEN TESTS

Ottawa's public school board has received a shipment of rapid antigen tests and has been distributing them to schools this week.

Two tests will be provided to each elementary student.

"Schools will send test kits and instructions to parents and guardians once they are ready for distribution," said the OCDSB.

"We expect to receive additional tests for secondary students at a later date."